TAMPA — Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik said he and his Cascade Investment partners are "making good progress" on signing a tenant for half of a 650,000-square-foot office building planned for the first phase of their downtown redevelopment project.
Vinik, who hopes to land the headquarters or a regional division of a Fortune 500 company, gave no further details about the prospect's identity during an hourlong speech Monday as part of the Thought Leaders @ The Centre Club discussion series.
"My sense is once we announce the phase one major tenant, I think dominoes are going to start falling," he said. "An awful lot of good conversation is going on, and nothing (breeds) success like success."
Vinik also said he and his partners:
• Will pursue a supermarket for their project, the first phase of which is expected to take three to four years and cost an estimated $1.2 billion to create.
• Are well into a search for a new chief executive officer to replace Tod Leiweke, who left in July to become chief operating officer for the National Football League. Vinik wants that CEO to bring retail development expertise that will shape the plan and lineup at a remade Channelside Bay Plaza shopping center.
• Are talking to operators interested in running a new 500-room hotel — with 350 four-star rooms and 150 five-star rooms — plus a signature restaurant on what is now a parking lot between Amalie Arena and the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina.
• Expect to have more apartments to rent than condominiums to sell early on in the development, with that balance tipping more toward condos as prices rise. A residential consultant also has told him to expect 80 percent millennials and 20 percent empty-nesters, but "personally, I believe we're going to be less than 80 and more than 20."
• Are seeking to make the area easier to walk around in by taking streets from one-way to two-way and maybe reducing the speed limit, perhaps to 25 mph.
"Buildings do not create a successful district," he said. "What creates a successful district is what happens on street level, and that's the experiences and the stores and the culture and the galleries."
Asked about baseball, Vinik, who has shown no inclination to include a new ballpark in his plans, said keeping the Tampa Bay Rays here would help him with corporate expansions and losing the team would hurt.
"We must keep baseball in this region," said Vinik, who expressed no preference for Pinellas or Hillsborough. "A big-league area needs big-league baseball. … If we lose baseball, dozens of conversations I have with companies completely change."
Contact Richard Danielson at email@example.com or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times